Friday

23rd Feb 2024

Data flows to US will continue despite EU court ruling

  • Microchips: 'Transatlantic data flows are the backbone of our economy', Jourova said (Photo: Tambako the Jaguar)

The European Commission on Tuesday (6 October) said the transfer of data between the EU and US will continue in light of a European court judgment.

Frans Timmermans, the EU commission vice president, said transatlantic data flows between companies will not stop.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He told reporters in Strasbourg that “other mechanisms for international transfers of personal data” are available.

Timmermans’ announcement follows a judgment by the European Court of Justice on Tuesday against the so-called Safe Harbour agreement.

The Luxembourg-based judges said US companies under the regime are unable to guarantee an adequate level of protection of data of EU citizens transferred to the US.

Safe Harbour is an executive decision by the European Commission. It means that the Brussels-executive determined in 2000 that the US provides an adequate level of protection of EU citizen data.

But the 15-year old pact has come under intense scrutiny following 2013 media revelations that US intelligence services had direct access to the data of EU citizens from big American companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google.

The judges said indiscriminate and mass collection of people’s personal data violates fundamental rights to privacy and that national data authorities should be empowered to investigate abuse.

Edward Snowden, the exiled US whistleblower behind the surveillance leaks, in a tweet wrote “Europe’s high court just struck down a major law routinely abused for surveillance. We are all safer as a result".

ECJ president retires

Internal issues at the Luxembourg-based court may have also helped speed up the judgment. The Court’s president Vassilios Skouris, who sat in on the landmark case, retires tomorrow.

The panel of judges issued their verdict around two weeks after the Court’s advocate-general published his opinion.

A contact at the Court said the procedure was unusually fast. But he noted that even without the president, “the court would still have been queried”.

Safe Harbour not suspended

The Commission on Tuesday did not suspend Safe Harbour due, in part, to ongoing talks with their US counterparts for a new-model agreement.

“It is important that transatlantic data flows can continue, as they are the backbone of our economy”, said EU commissioner for justice Vera Jourova.

The estimated value of EU citizens' data was €315 billion a year in 2011. The figure is projected to increase to €1 trillion by 2020.

The two sides have been discussing Commission recommendations on how to improve the pact for almost two years. Jourova wanted it finalised before the summer but the US refuses to budge on national security exemptions.

She declined to give any new dates when asked.

Contract clauses and binding corporate rules

Other options remain on how to get data to the US.

It includes standard data protection clauses in contracts between companies exchanging data and binding corporate rules for transfers within a corporate group.

Both already make up the bulk of the transfers to the US, according to German Green MEP Jan Phillip Albrecht.

“The difference is that we are no longer talking about a basic assumption of adequacy, which was adopted by the commission in 2000”, he said.

Albrecht, who recently steered data protection reforms through the parliament, said the US has to protect the data if they want US companies to have equal access to the European digital market.

“That is the whole issue”, he said.

The industry, for its part, is not happy with the Court’s decision.

The American Chamber of Commerce in the EU in a statement said scrapping Safe Harbour could disrupt transatlantic business, hurt the EU economy, and jeopardise a digital single market.

Tech giant IBM also said the ruling jeopardises data flows and creates "significant commercial uncertainty at a time when many European economies remain fragile."

How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Amazon is one step closer to being banned from the European Parliament after the employment committee complained of a lack of cooperation in recent years — what is the process, and when can a final decision be expected?

EU deal on new gig-workers rules unlikely before June elections

Another provisional agreement on improving working conditions for platform workers fall apart on Friday, as four member states decided not to support it — making the chances of a directive before the June European elections unlikely.

EU agrees less ambitious rules on platform work

A new provisional agreement on the platform workers directive has been reached — but what has changed from the previous deal, and how will it affect the expected reclassification of 5.5 million platform workers as "employees"?

Opinion

The AI Act — a breach of EU fundamental rights charter?

"I hope MEPs will not approve the AI Act in its current text," warns a senior EU civil servant, writing anonymously. The normalisation of arbitrary 'algorithmic' intrusions on our inner life provides a legacy of disregard for human dignity.

Opinion

Why are German armed forces spying on domestic citizens?

It is not widely-known that the German armed forces carry out reconnaissance activities. Despite involving around 7,000 personnel, the German government does not consider the Bundeswehr is running an intelligence service, thus there is barely any control or legal oversight.

Latest News

  1. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  2. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  3. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament
  4. Blackmailing the Global South on EU carbon border tax won't work
  5. EU auditors: rule-of-law budget protections only partial success
  6. EU's €723bn Covid recovery fund saw growth, but doubts remain
  7. Von der Leyen rejects extremist parties, leaves door open to ECR
  8. Russian oligarchs failed to get off EU blacklist

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us